PANTHEISM

A Brief Explanation

The term “pantheist” — from which the word “Pantheism” is derived — was purportedly first used in English by Irish writer John Toland when in 1705 he referred to “the pantheistic opinion of those who believe in no other eternal being but the universe.” However, many earlier writers, schools of philosophy, and religious movements expressed pantheistic ideas.

In the West, Pantheism went into retreat during the Christian years between the 4th and 15th centuries, when it was regarded as heresy. The first open revival was by Giordano Bruno (burned at the stake in 1600). For a time during the 19th century it seemed like Pantheism was the religion of the future, attracting figures such as Wordsworth and Coleridge in Britain; Fichte, Schelling and Hegel in Germany; Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau in the USA. Seen as a threat by the Vatican, it came under attack in the notorious Syllabus of Errors of Pius IX.

However, in the 20th century Pantheism was sidelined by political ideologies such as Communism and Fascism, by the traumatic upheavals of two world wars. It persisted in eminent pantheists such as the novelist D.H. Lawrence, poet Robinson Jeffers, scientist Albert Einstein, architect Frank Lloyd Wright and historian Arnold Toynbee.

Recent developments

In the late 20th century, Pantheism began to see a resurgence. Pantheism chimed with the growing ecological awareness in society and the media. The creation of the naturalistic World Pantheist Movement in 1999, with its multiple mailing lists and social networks, led to much wider visibility.

As the growing global ecological crisis increased the level of concern for Nature, the popularity and visibility of Pantheism grew further in the early 21st century. Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion gave Naturalistic Pantheism increased credibility among atheists by describing it as sexed-up atheism. The Vatican gave Pantheism further prominence in a Papal encyclical of 2009 and a New Year's Day statement on January 1, 2010, which criticized Pantheism for denying the superiority of humans over nature and "seeing the source of man’s salvation in nature." James Cameron’s 2009 movie Avatar was widely reviewed as presenting a Pantheistic reverence and concern for Nature. Ross Douthat of The New York Times described the film as “Cameron’s long apologia for pantheism … Hollywood’s religion of choice for a generation now”.

All varieties of Pantheism involve reverence for the Universe or Totality rather than for any creator being or personal God. All imply some level of unity in reality. All have a strong emphasis on Nature as a focus of spirituality and of ethics.

The full version of this text can be found on Wikipedia.

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